Rover staff writers offer suggestions for summer spiritual reading
Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary – Evan Bursch
Dr. Brant Pitre (who earned his Ph.D. in Theology here at the University of Notre Dame) will change how you understand Mary in the context of our Catholic faith. The way in which he draws parallels between the Old Testament and the New Testament as well as the symbolism that he illuminates throughout is truly fascinating. This book will either compel you towards a devotion to Mary or reinvigorate your existing one. Beyond that, the way in which Pitre writes is down-to-earth and easy to understand. If my word isn’t enough, the book has also received glowing reviews from the likes of Edward Sri, Bishop Barron, and Scott Hahn. Whenever you next need a book to read, no matter if you are a biblical scholar or just learning about the Faith, choose Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary.
The Seven Storey Mountain – Elizabeth Zahorick
I read this book during the long summer of 2020, and it quickly became one of my all-time favorites. The Seven Storey Mountain is the spiritual autobiography of Trappist monk and renowned author Thomas Merton. Like St. Augustine of Hippo, Merton struggled for many years trying to find happiness while living an irreligious life in the secular world, before finally realizing that his only true rest was in God. This journey of conversion led him all the way to the enclosure and silence of a Trappist monastery. Merton’s trials and temptations as he attempts to navigate our fallen world are deeply relatable, and his insights into the spiritual life and the Catholic Faith struck me to the core. The Seven Storey Mountain is one of the most profound books I have ever read, and it’s worth a slow, deliberate read. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a magnificently written, spiritually enriching narrative that speaks to the struggles of modern life and meets us where we are.
1963 Roman Catholic Daily Missal – Nicholas Orr
If you took to heart my recommendation to go to the Traditional Latin Mass (Vol. 18, Issue 6) and you are seeking more, the next step is to get a missal. The 1963 Roman Catholic Daily Missal by Angelus Press has been my go-to, and it has helped me “Pray the Mass” like never before. This missal explains certain parts of the mass, such as the movements of the priest and altar servers.. On top of the daily mass propers, there are countless prayers and devotions that help one reflect on the sacrifice of the Mass. If you are looking for an older missal, pick up the Fr. Lasance New Roman Missal. Anyone seeking to deepen their faith by attending the Traditional Latin Mass will surely benefit from these guides.
The Way by St. Josemaría Escrivá – Nico Schmitz
Written as a large collection of small paragraphs to reflect and meditate upon, St. Josemaría addresses the path to a life of love and prayer in a direct and pointed way. As opposed to traditional spiritual writings, The Way is written in a conversational style and explicitly addresses normal everyday struggles and real life experiences. While the challenges given by St. Josemaria are sometimes hard to hear, the points of spiritual direction allow for profound reflection into one’s interior life and offer wise insight on the question of how to live. As a collection of statements without explanations or context, The Way is a great tool for personal prayer or conversation that should be read slowly and deliberately. Reflecting upon a few excerpts from St. Josemaría each night has helped me encounter Christ through the mundane of the day-to-day and has motivated me to cultivate virtue through small things like school work that our spiritual reflection can easily neglect. I recommend this book to anyone who feels overwhelmed by the professional and student work life as well as to those looking for practical ways to share their faith with others.
Till We Have Faces – Maria Keller
C.S. Lewis’ retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche is perhaps the strangest of all of Lewis’ works that I have read (unfortunately I have not yet read The Space Trilogy). I began this book last semester, in quarantine, and it quickly distracted me from all of my other work, but not because it was an easy read. It begins very slowly, and frustration with the narrator often makes it painful to read (but stick it out to the end because it is definitely worth it!). Till We Have Faces is the story of the beautiful Psyche from the perspective of her older sister, Orual. Though the idea was conceived long before he converted to Christianity, Lewis deals with themes of sacred and profane love, the dichotomy of paganism and Socratic rationalism, and the ease of self-deception. The best way to read this book is in tangent with The Four Loves, with some background knowledge of Platonic notions of love and beauty. This book is not a work of apologetics; it does not make any attempt to justify the ways of God to men. Instead, it dismisses any such attempt to understand or judge the ways of God before we open ourselves entirely to Him: “How can the gods meet us face to face until we have faces?” Even months after finishing it, I find myself regularly reflecting on Till We Have Faces, considering what it asks of its readers: complete trust and openness to God’s grace.
The Poco a Poco Podcast – Mary Frances Myler
Poco a Poco, created by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFRs), was my first experience with podcasts. While I’m not yet a convert to the medium writ large, I cannot recommend Poco a Poco highly enough. During Lent, I began listening to the podcast while cleaning my room or folding laundry, and it soon became a staple of my weekly routine: a chance to check in with the state of my spiritual life. The show’s philosophy revolves around the pilgrimage of faith, which is walked “poco a poco” — “little by little.” Episodes roughly an hour in length delve into various elements of spirituality, presenting a delightful combination of common sense, Catholic insight, and witty banter. Drawing on the rich Catholic tradition (with, of course, a special affinity for St. Francis of Assisi) and contemporary witnesses to faith, the CFRs present spiritual guidance that is simultaneously accessible and challenging, simple and profound. Allow Poco a Poco to accompany you on the pilgrimage of faith — soon you’ll be a weekly listener too!